- Associated Press - Sunday, March 22, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A new poll shows 68 percent of Minnesota residents believe a teacher’s performance, not his or her seniority, should be the deciding factor in making layoff decisions.

The results of the latest Star Tribune Minnesota Poll were published Sunday (https://strib.mn/1MX29UK ). The survey found that Minnesota residents across party lines, across the state, and from all age groups supported performance over seniority when public schools are faced with layoffs.

“Experience does come with teaching for a number of years, but I don’t think it should be the only factor in teachers being laid off,” said Janelle Kanz, 77, a retired educator and Winona resident. “Seniority is for the advantage of the teacher. Performance is for the advantage of the student.”

The telephone poll of 625 Minnesotans was taken March 16 through March 18. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Teacher seniority rules have become contentious at the Capitol this session. Minnesota is among less than a dozen states where teachers’ job security is determined largely by seniority.

“None of us want to see teachers laid off but the reality is that . it’s something that happens enough that you want to make sure when it does happen, we’re keeping the absolute best teachers we can in the classroom,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a Republican attempt to change tenure rules in 2012. Dayton’s spokesman, Matt Swenson, noted the existence of bills in the House and Senate that would change rules and said: “We’ll see what the legislative support is in both bodies.”

Fifty-one percent of Minnesotans agreed that more experienced teachers are usually better than younger teachers. But about a quarter said experience doesn’t matter too much.

“Young teachers maybe have more enthusiasm, but experience means so much in doing a job like that,” said John Pierson, 66, a Champlin resident and former Teamster. “Performance is nice, but I wouldn’t think seniority would be built up if their performance were so poor.”

Senate Education Committee Chair Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, said the public might not know about a 2011 teacher evaluation law that’s designed to improve teaching quality. He said the public should be more concerned about the “alarming number” of teachers who are quitting, and the number of students who are no longer pursuing teaching careers.

Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union, has argued against revising layoff rules. Union officials said the new teacher evaluation requirements are untested and shouldn’t be used to make layoff decisions.


Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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